Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ahh, Snow!

Snow is nothing more than frozen rain, but it's arrival is one that's sparked the imaginations of poets and writers alike. It's welcomed with open arms by kids and cursed at by adults too busy to stop and throw the snow ball. For me, snow is an excuse to curl up under a fleece blanket with a couple of my tiels, normally AsaMina Sura and Worthington Israel Wentworth, and a really good book---or sewing project. I sit so I can see the flakes gently flutter to the frozen earth, sewing slowly as the snow is so much more mesmerizing than one would think. AsaMina Sura, who hatched during a snow storm December 13, 2001, is also mesmerized by the snow. She'll yell really rude things (in cockatiel, fortunately) at the wild birds who land in our backyard and disturb the serenity of the snowflakes fluttering to earth like graceful little prima ballerinas and then disappearing into the millions of other snowflakes forming a very thin coating over the uneven dead lawn. (below picture is of Elsie, my cow-car, without snow on her--she's the one with the mags)

Snow brings back memories of Kypy Mountain when I was a teen up in Washington State. Kypy Mountain was a pile of dirt with tiny pine trees on it that our family dog Kypynykh decided he owned. The most fun was the skill required to aim my sled so it'd go between the pine trees, not up them. My aim? Not that great. I'm glad they were baby pine trees and Kypy Mountain, not that steep.

Snow reminds me of Delaware, where I was born and going for sled rides with my Mom and our then Husky Pooka pulling us. It was blast until he saw a cat. Rollercoaster rides dream of being that thrilling!

Snow is something I look forward to every winter. It means no migraines, it mean hot cups of cocoa, it means warm snuggly sweats and fleece blankets. It's a good excuse to snuggle with the one you love, too. Being in Arkansas, after living up North for most of my life, makes me appreciate the snow, what little of it we get here, even more. I love to watch the faces of AsaMina and Cleo when it snows. They're Yankees like I am and are from New Hampshire, too. I think they miss the northern winters as much as I do.

Cleo Chaquita Pattee (left- below) and AsaMina Sura (right -above)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Asha Chronicles--The Conclusion!

“Well, I know that my Mom says if one is ‘idle’, like in the first line of that note, one is lazy. Maybe we should look for something lazy?” BabyGirl offered.
“Well, what about that building over there?” Asha asked, trying to add in her two cents worth, as she looked toward an old wooden shack that was leaning slightly to the right.
“We can check it out.” Asa and Cecil said in chorus as the mismatched flock took flight and headed for the rickety looking building. As they landed upon its roof, the building groaned slightly under their weight.
“Careful, this place seems even more dangerous than my Grandma’s craft closet.” Asa whispered.
“Shhhh! Listen!” Cecil said in a melodious but hoarse whisper.
The foursome listened intently to a faint scraping noise coming from somewhere below them.
“Humans.” Asha said in a barely audible whisper.
“Doing what?” BabyGirl asked, also in a barely audible whisper.
“Can’t tell.” Said Cecil as he tilted his head to one side, hoping to hear the sound a bit clearer.
“Let’s check it out.” Asha and Asa said bravely together.
“Asha-Asa…” BabyGirl began.
“Gesundheit.” Cecil said politely.
“…are you two crazy?! That noise could be anything! And probably an anything that will eat us!” BabyGirl continued over Cecil’s remark, her natural and wild bird instinct kicking in on turbo for just a brief moment.
“What’s to be afraid of? I’ll go in first and check it out. They won’t see me in the dark or even in shadow. My brown feathers blend in really well.” Asa said as she made her way down the left side of the rickety building and into an open window on the side of the shack.
The two Amazons and one Budgie waited impatiently for what felt like hours. They were all about to agree that Asa was no longer alive when she emerged, slightly out of breath, from the window she’d entered just fifteen minutes earlier.
“Are you ready for this?” she panted
“Where were you?! Are you ok?! What’s going on in there?!” Cecil asked before the Amazon duo could open their beaks.
“They are trying to poison the humans!” Asa began, “There are three big human men in the basement of this shack and they are using needles to put poison called arsenic into a lot of peaches!” Asa paused for a breath.
“What’s arsenic? And what are needles? And how do you know all of this?” Asha asked almost way too fast to be understood.
Grandma and I watch Arsenic and Old Lace a lot. It’s a really cool movie, although I don’t see the fascination with the human called Cary Grant. Doesn’t look like he could deal with bird poop very well…anyway, in the movie these old ladies kill people by putting arsenic in stuff called elderberry wine. And, the needles are something my Grandpa has to use for his diabetes.” Asa explained.
“Ninja the bad guys?” Asha asked hopefully.
“Yeah, you and BabyGirl go down there and stop them and Cecil and I will go into the Byron Depot and call the police…”
Oh, sure!” said BabyGirl incredulously, “You two call the cops? How?!”
“I know how to push phone buttons down and all you gotta do is push the 9 button down and then push the 1 button twice. I saw it on the Danger Rangers on PBS. And, Cecil speaks fluent human and can get the police to come running here fast.”
“Yeah, I see that open window too, Asa.” Cecil commented as he looked toward the Byron Depot building, then added, “Asha, you and BabyGirl go ninja the bad guys. We’ll be right back.” He concluded as he and Asa wasted no more time on explanations as they took off for the main depot building.
With Asha leading the way and BabyGirl close behind her, the pair climbed down the left hand side of the building and into the same open window they’d seen Asa do not 20 minutes before. Once inside the orange wing Amazon nudged the blue fronted Amazon as she lifted her left foot in an attempt to point her best friend toward the hole in the shacks rickety old wooden floor boards.
“I’ll bet that’s where Asa found the bad guys.” BabyGirl whispered.
“Yeah, I see her talon prints in the dust over there.” Asha whispered back as she tilted her head in the direction of the talon prints Asa had left earlier under a chair that was precariously balanced on its remaining three legs.
BabyGirl took a deep breath in preparation to say something, but got a beak full of dust particles instead and began to sneeze.
“What was that?” The Amazons heard emanate from just below the rickety and rotted old wooden floor boards and apparently from one of the three bad guys Asa had told them about.
“Mice.” came the response from Bad Guy Number Two
“More like big disease infested rats.” chuckled Bad Guy Number Three, “Hey Dweeble Head, pass me ‘nother one dem viles of arsenic before I poundya.” Bad Guy Number Three ended, still chuckling under his breath at the thought of a giant monster diseased rat lurking just above them.
“Well, I’m just going to have to double diva ninja that bad guy! Can you believe he called us ‘rats’?” Asha whispered to BabyGirl.
“’Diseased monster rats’ to be exact.” BabyGirl correct Asha, “you are welcome to Rat Guy, I’ll work on Dweeble Head and the other one since any human called ‘Dweeble Head’ can’t be too tough.” BabyGirl reasoned as she sneezed again, before adding, “The humans who own this place obviously are owned by a dog! Only a dog could live in filth like this. A human owned by a bird would never have allowed this place to have gotten to this condition.”
“Amen, Sister!” Asha sneezed.
“The Amazon duo stealthily crept across the dusty rickety floor boards to the basement opening. With Asha still leading the way, the Amazons crept with all the grace of a pair of prima ballerinas and the stealth of Bruce Lee down the first three ladder rungs from the main floor into the basement. They stood there for a moment as they silently pondered their next move.
The three bad guys were standing around an old Formica table that was colored in shades of faded mauves and greens, injecting peach after peach from the crate closest to where the Amazons sat silently on the third ladder rung to the nearly full crate on the other side of the table with both a powdered arsenic and a liquid arsenic poison. Without stopping to confer neither with her best friend and partner, nor with a moments thought of her own safety, Asha, in total Jackie Chan style, leapt and flapped wildly into action.
“ Kowabunga! The mighty Diva Ninja has come to foil your evil plot, demolish your evil deeds, and send you to the pokey!!!” Asha shrieked at the three startled humans as she flew wildly around their heads, hitting them in the faces with her wings in the process.
“AAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!” screamed Dweeble Head at the top of his lungs as he covered his face from Asha’s wing assault.
“Not ‘rats’! BATS!!! Big hideous GREEN ones, too!!!” shrieked Rat Guy as he ran for the ladder and what he thought was safety. He didn’t see BabyGirl still sitting oh-so calmly on the third ladder rung.
“Oh no you don’t, Rat Guy.” BabyGirl said in a sticky sweet girlie tone as she leaned slightly forward and bit Rat Guy as hard as she could on his nose.
Rat Guy recoiled away from BabyGirl in excruciating pain, then promptly passed out cold at the sight of his own blood.
“One down, two to go.” BabyGirl said casually as she hopped daintily off the ladder and onto Rat Guys unconscious body. She sauntered up his torso and over to his right hand, biting his index finger as hard as she could for good measure. “Yup, he’s out.” she added triumphantly as she flapped her wings and became air borne.
“The little one stuck himself with one of those needles and doesn’t have much fight left, but Dweeble Head here is refusing to go down!” Asha screeched over Dweeble Heads panicked cries.
“We’re here! Let me at-tum!!” Cecil said as he soared majestically through the opening in the shack floor and into the basement.
“Coming through!” Asa screeched as the buzzed through the center of one of Asha’s mid air loop-tee-loops.
“Help me get Dweeble Head!” Asha called out to no bird in particular.
“The Great Cecinator of the Great Budgie Divide will eradicate the human Dweeble Head menace!” Cecil crooned as Bad Guy Number One dropped dead of arsenic poisoning in the pile of tainted peaches.
Cecil, with Asa on his left and Asha on his right circled in unison around the room and, as the threesome passed over Dweeble Heads head, Dweeble Head looked up just in time to be nailed right in the face with Cecil’s, Asa’s, and Asha’s ‘processed leftovers’.
“Oh…ewwwwwww!!” Dweeble Head exclaimed as he passed out cold.
“HAH! Works every time!!” Asa beeped victoriously.
“Humans are such babies!!” Asha warbled jubilantly.
“I’ll be bach you puny human!” Cecil exclaimed in the most macho tone of warble he could muster.
As the three feathered dive bombers landed gracefully on the back of one of the five wooden chairs scattered about the small room, BabyGirl waddled proudly over to Dweeble Head and just for good measure, bit him as hard as she could on his nose.
“There, they all match.” BabyGirl said as she joined her fellow crime fighters on the chair.
“We’d better fly. I think that’s a siren I hear.” Asa said.
“Are you sure? Don’t we need to make sure these guys don’t wake up or something?” BabyGirl asked.
“Well, that’s not my sister Cleo I hear. She’s too busy with Huey to follow me here and I doubt if these guys will go anywhere. They’re out snow cold.” Asa answered.
“They won’t wake up if they know what’s good for them!” Cecil said smugly.
“Let’s fly.” Asha said as she flapped and became airborne. “That is a siren and we don’t want to get caught here with these evil humans.”
The four feathered crime fighters flew out of the basement of the rickety shack and then out the open window and up onto the shacks roof to catch their breaths and to make sure the bad guys didn’t try to get away before the police arrived and could arrest them.
“Here they are.” BabyGirl stated when she saw the six police cruisers pull up to the shack.
“What on earth did you tell the police, Cecil?” Asha asked as she preened her ruffled feathers.
Asa giggled as Cecil repeated for Asha and BabyGirl what he’d told the police, “I told them Cynthia and Jack were lovers, but Cynthia’s husband Damon found them getting jiggy in the basement of the shack behind the Byron Depot and lost it and shot them then seriously wounded himself.” Cecil paused as they all heard at least three of the police officers exclaim, ‘What on earth happened here?!!?’ before adding, “My Mom leaves the soap operas on for me and Irwin sometimes.”
“Where on earth did all these green feathers come from?” one of the officers asked another.
“There are blue, brown, and a few orange feathers, too.” the other officer added.
“We’d better fly guys. They’ve got everything under control here.” Asha stated.
The mismatched flock took off from the shack roof and headed for Asha’s home. Upon arriving safely on the still open windows windowsill Asha noted the football game was nearing the end of the fourth quarter, Dads team was still losing, and Dad was still sound asleep on the sofa and snoring softly.
“Asa, can you lock me back in and fix this screen so my dad doesn’t get mad?”
“Sure, no problem.” Asa said as she entered Asha’s home, locked Asha back into her cage and then let herself out, closing the window screen behind her.
“Does anyone know what the first part of that note meant?” BabyGirl asked no one in particular.
“No.” Cecil twittered.
“Not a clue.” Asa beeped.
“Does it matter?” Yawned Asha.
“Nope. The bad guys have been terminated by the King Budgerator of the Great Budgie Divide…and company…so nope, doesn’t matter.” Cecil yawned.
“Better fly before we wake up Asha’s Dad and we’re missed back home.” Asa said as she helped Cecil with a couple of hard to reach feathers on the top of his head.
“See you on BC, Asha.” BabyGirl said as she flapped her wings, became airborne, and headed for home.
“I’ll message you that I got home to Arkansas safely, kay?” Asa said as she too became airborne and headed for home.
“See you in the BC pages Asha!” Cecil called back as he too headed for his home in New York.
Asha preened her feathers for a good five minutes, making herself once again look like her perfect diva self before tucking her head under her wing and settling down for a much needed nap.
“Asha Princess….” Asha’s Dad cooed sweetly at his sleeping angel.
Asha sleepily opened her eyes, blinked several times and yawned.
“I made you your favorite, fresh fruit salad with walnuts.” Dad cooed as he opened Asha’s cage and placed the dish on the bottom.
Asha yawned again and murmured a sweet thank you to her Dad in Amazon, but was still too tired from her adventure that afternoon to move.
“You are such a lazy bird.” Asha’s Dad said as he shook his head and closed her cage door.
‘Yeah, very lazy bird.’ Asha thought to herself. ‘I just saved the whole human race from poisoned peaches while you slept on the sofa. Yeah, I’m a very lazy bird.’ Asha yawned, tucked her head back under her wing, and fell sound asleep.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Brain TV

Brain TV- what you see in your mind when you read a story. The authors job is to paint in your mind what they see in theirs when they put pen to paper and assemble words into a picture they hope the reader will see as clearly as they do. The below story was a fun project done for a friend I met on Bird Channel, the 'My Space' pages for bird people. Our birds met due to the similarity in their names; my Asa and his Asha. The pair were a story looking for a place to happen. Upon hearing the possiblity of being in a story, one of Asha's best friends and one of Asa's best friend also wanted in on the action. I took the birds real names and real personalities and wove them into a totally fictitious story. Although, the picture I hope to paint in your mind is one that will make you wonder what your critter is doing when you're not home...

‘Perfect day.’ Asha mumbled to herself as she luxuriously stretched her emerald green right wing and dainty right foot. Asha adjusted her position slightly to the right on the perch she was sitting on in her cage. From this new position she could see everything. Her human Dad was sound asleep and snoring softly on the living room sofa. The football game he’d been intently watching was in its third quarter and his team was still losing. Asha figured that’s why her Dad fell asleep in the first place.
Asha turned her blue and yellow head to the left and looked out the open living room window. She lazily absorbed the sights before her, the well trimmed lawn that was actually greener than she was, and then the peach trees that lay just beyond on the edge of her yard. The peaches, Asha noted, weren’t quite ripe yet, much to her dismay. She just loved when her human cut up a fresh juicy peach for her breakfast; or lunch or dinner for that matter.
Asha squinted and blinked her ebony black eyes, was that peach really moving or was it her imagination? Asha moved gracefully from her favorite perch to the bars of her cage that faced the window and just clung there in a diva like pose and watched as the green and orange ‘peach’ got a bit closer. “That’s definitely not a peach.” Asha said out loud. Her Dad shifted on the sofa a bit as his team finally got their first touchdown. “Whisper!” she scolded herself silently as the ‘peach’ landed on the windowsill in front of her.
“Did you get the message?” asked the orange winged Amazon Asha had mistaken for an unripe peach.
“Shhhhhh!! You’ll wake Dad!” Asha scolded BabyGirl in a harsh, undiva like whisper.
BabyGirl was one of Asha’s best friends. The pair had visited often on Bird Channel, the “My Space” for those blessed with feathers, but this was the first time they’d seen one another beak to beak and blue front to orange wing.
“Sorry.” BabyGirl apologized, “I heard from Asa and she said she’d gotten a really weird letter in the mail. She told me she messaged Cecil over in New York and they need us to help with…um…oh, I can’t remember now! It’s been a long flight from Missouri to here, you know.” BabyGirl ended as she looked up and to her left. “They’re here.” she announced, remembering to whisper so as not to wake Asha’s Dad.
Asha tilted her head to the right and tried to see what BabyGirl was looking at. “What is it?” Asha asked BabyGirl.
“Asa and Cecil.” she answered simply as the pair came into view and a moment later landed beside her on the windowsill.
“Hey Asha.” beeped Asa, a cinnamon pearl split to pied tiel. She was another of Asha’s best friends from Bird Channel. “This is Cecil; he’s a really cool dude for a guy. I know him from Bird Channel. He’s got a sister and a brother and an it named Irwin. Irwin is friends with my brother Worthington, but Cecil is the cool one in the family.”
“Hi Cecil.” Asha said politely to the little blue budgie, and to Asa she added, “I thought you’d be bigger, you know, more macaw sized.” This was also the first time Asha and Asa had met beak to beak.
“Nah, I’m just strong, that’s all.” Asa responded back matter-of-factly. She was used to the odd looks she got from both fellow feathered ones and humans alike. Not many tiels could chew through concrete like she could. She just explained to those who stared, she liked a good challenge, that’s all. “Did BabyGirl tell you what I got in the mail?” she added.
“Shhhhhh!!!!” Asha said again as her human once again shifted his weight on the sofa. “Before we wake my Dad, help me get outa here and we’ll go talk in that peach tree across the yard.” Asha whispered as she made reference to the peach tree BabyGirl had just flown out of.
“What? You can’t ninja out of that cage?!” asked Cecil.
“If I could, do you think I’d still be stuck in here?” Asha whispered back.
“Well, let’s let the Convicts Chick do her thing, then.” Cecil said as he and BabyGirl stepped aside to let Asa have at the window screen and then the lock on Asha’s cage.
“Convicts Chick?” Asha asked Cecil. “Yeah. Rosalie Hale Bopp gave Asa that nickname because that’s how she happened. Her Momma Bird popped the lock on her cage like Asa’s doing to yours right now.” Cecil explained as Asa nimbly and easily undid the bird proof latch on Asha’s cage.
“Come on!” BabyGirl whispered as Asha exited her cage, “Quickly.” she added as she took off with Cecil close behind her for the peach tree on the far side of the yard.
Once the foursome was perched deep within the peach tree and well out of the sight of any passing humans, Asa began her story.
“About four days ago now my Grandma got a book in the mail from my Uncle Andy. The book, from what I could see, wasn’t anything special, but the little paper that fell out of it, on the other hand, was.” Asa paused a moment to itch her left eye on her shoulder before continuing, “Grandma is so used to me being in the middle of everything she does, that she doesn’t pay much attention anymore. So, when I went after the paper she just smiled and let me.” Asa paused once again to itch her left eye on her shoulder, then continued, “On the paper was this:
Hours of Idleness badly received
Critics scoff at Bards and Scotch
Till peaches, wood burning hot
Southwest 1 point 5
Fuzzy coat the fever infects
Lines Inscribed Upon a Cup Formed From a Skull”

Asa concluded.
“Huh?” asked BabyGirl. “That’s all human stuff, what’s it got to do with us?”

“I, the Great King Sized Budgerator Oracle shall explain the utterances…uh…’beeps’….of my equally as wise….um…well, I’ll just translate what Asa said as best I can, ok?” Cecil articulated.
Asha giggled and muttered to BabyGirl a bit louder than she’d intended. “The Great Budgerator himself has a crush on the Convicts Chick.”
BabyGirl giggled as Cecil quickly interjected, “I have great respect for Asa, that’s all. She’s not my girlfriend, so get your minds out of the nest box for a moment and I’ll explain what Asa and I discovered.” Cecil paused for a breath and fluffed himself up slightly. Cecil, a sky blue budgie with a white forehead, was a good five inches shorter than Asha, the Blue Fronted Amazon and three inches shorter than BabyGirl, the Orange Wing Amazon and Asa the Cinnamon pearl split pied Cockatiel. But, it was only Cecil’s size that was smaller than the girls. His personality, on the other hand, was double that of the Amazon pair, but only slightly larger than Asa’s. “After Asa read the note,” Cecil continued, “she messaged me. The two of us got together and, using my Mom and Dad’s computer, figured out that part of the note has something to do with poisoning humans and killing them.”
“Yeah, the ‘Lines Inscribed Upon a Cup’ thing is referring to a poem by a guy named Lord George Gordon Byron. Uncle Andy has read me some of his poems before, that’s how I know that the line comes from one of his writings.” Asa helped Cecil explain.
“What’s the poem about?” Asha asked as she preened her royal emerald green feathers.
“About a dead humans being eaten by worms.” Cecil said bluntly.
“Ewwwwwww!!!” squirmed BabyGirl way too loudly.
“Shhhhhhhhhh!!!!” screeched Asha automatically.
Cecil shook his head before adding, “That’s why we’re here. We need your brains and muscles to help us figure out the rest of this note and then we’ve gotta…”
“Ninja the bad guy?” Asha interrupted hopefully.
“Yeah, ‘ninja the bad guy’.” Cecil concurred.
“So, where do we go and what next?” Asha asked.
“Well, this is Byron, Georgia, named after the poet Lord George Gordon Byron and I’m guessing that ‘fuzzy’ has to do with peaches.” Asa began as BabyGirl retracted her beak back from its current open position into its closed position. She’d changed her mind about biting the juicy looking peach hanging just above her head as Asa continued, “Asha, you’ll need to help us since you live here. I can read and Cecil is very smart and is very good with puzzles, too. BabyGirl is here for her muscle and well, you’re the one and only Diva Ninja Master, of course. We’re going to need all the help we can get against any bad guys.” Asa ended.
“I don’t know where anything is outside of my home. I don’t even like coming out of my cage!” Asha stated as she suddenly realized she was not only out of her cage, but outside of her house and up in a peach tree clear across the yard.
“You’re fine.” Cecil said in a very gentlemanly and comforting tone to Asha as he stood up as tall as his little body would allow.
Asha sighed as she looked at the three friends before her. She did feel safe, now that she thought about it.
“Well, there are these things called historical markers. Humans use them to remind them where stuff happened. That way they don’t have to go to my great-grandma and have her look up stuff in all her library books for them. She only has to do it for humans that don’t know about historical markers. We just need to fly around and find the ones the humans put up around here, that’s all.” Asa said proud of her knowledge of such human things as historical markers and books.
“What do they look like?” BabyGirl asked.
“Big brown squares with letters on them.” Cecil warbled, having seen many on his family outings to visit his cousin Nabiki who also lived in New York not far from him.
“Where do you find them?” Asha asked next.
“On the side of the road sticking up out of the ground.” Cecil explained further.
“We should look for one that has to do with wood burning.” Asa beeped.
“Wood burning? Like fire?” asked Asha.
“Not really sure.” Asa began, “Humans are quite distructive, so I’m just not sure. Is there something you’ve seen on TV, Asha, which might give us something to check out and start our search with?” she ended as she rubbed her left eye on her shoulder again.
“Well, we’ve got a famous train station here that the humans just finished fixing up.” Asha pondered out loud, “I think the trains had wood burning engines, come to think of it.” she added.
“Well a train station is a possibility. It would be a good way to transport the peaches that are all over Georgia, too. You know, that ‘fuzzy’ part of the puzzle. Peaches are very fuzzy. Georgia is famous for its peaches.” the anything but ordinary blue budgie recited from his memory.
“You know, I think I flew over a train station on my way over here.” BabyGirl said thoughtfully.
“Well, show us.” Asa responded as she extended her light brown with yellow accented wings over her head in preparation for flight.
“Let’s go!” Cecil squawked as he, Asha and Asa took flight.
“Ok, this way!” BabyGirl said as she became airborne, veered southwest and took off with her fellow feathered adventurers close on her tail.
After about five minutes of flight the foursome landed on the roof of an old looking wooden structure.
“Here.” announced BabyGirl.
“Hmmmm.” pondered Asa as she looked around.
“It’s a train station all right.” Cecil confirmed.
“Yeah, and there is the historical marker.” Asa said excitedly as she fluttered the ten feet from the roof of the Byron Depot and onto the brown historical marker that the humans had conveniently erected to the left of the entrance to the old looking wood building.
“Can you read it?” Asha asked Asa.
“Yeah, I think I can.” Asa said as she pondered the groupings of letters that were imprinted on the big brown sign. “Something about this place being a flag-stop, a train stop where the train only stops when the human waves a flag at it…” Asa began and explained.
“Ooooh! Like you do a taxi!” Cecil said as he excitedly hopped around on the roof of the Byron Depot.
“Yeah, like a taxi…” Asa began again as she continued where she’d left off in the translation of the letters on the sign for Asha, BabyGirl and Cecil, “This is called the Southwestern Railroad and they call this place the, um…Number One and One Half Station.” Asa paused for a moment as she processed the next grouping of letters silently before exclaiming, “Hey! Listen to this: This station had a wood rack for wood burning trains!”
“Well, that’s the whole bottom of our puzzle.” Cecil said excitedly.
“I’m still lost.” said Asha and BabyGirl simultaneously.
“I see what you mean Cecil.” Asa stated, completely ignoring the Amazons quandary.
Cecil, always the gentleman, began to explain to the puzzled pair his comprehension of Asa’s puzzle, “Well, ‘Till peaches, wood burning hot’ is the wood burning trains that transported the Georgia peaches. The ‘Southwest 1 point 5’ is what the humans call this train station. I’m not sure about the ‘A-H-E-Naught’ part, but the ‘Fuzzy coat the fever infects’ has gotta be bad peaches. I remember on the news where there were these hamburgers that gave humans fever and made them sick. And, the last line is that poem Asa’s Uncle Andy read to her.” he concluded with his chest puffed out with pride at all the information he’d managed to keep crammed into his allegedly small white head.
“I think, “Asa began before Asha could say anything, “that the ‘A-H-E-Naught’ part is like those puzzles my Grandma always puts into her stories. So A is number 1, the H is number 8, the E is number 5 and the naught is a weird human word for the number 0. This place, according to the historical marker, was in use by the humans in the early 1850’s.” Asa explained to the sign rather than her feathered friends.
“So I don’t get to ninja any bad guys?” Asha asked, not only feeling a bit disappointed, but also that she had wasted her day worse than if she’d stayed at home and watched the football game with her Dad, who was probably still sound asleep.
“Well, we still have to figure out the first part of this note, you know.” Asa said as she fluttered from the historical marker back up to the Byron Depot roof where Asha, Cecil, and BabyGirl were still perched.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Art With Food

Yeah, you can do art with food, too. And I don't mean just gluing beans to a canvas in pretty patterns or stringing macaroni on a ribbon to make a necklace for your Mommy either. Cooking is an art all unto itself. What you add to a bowl can create something beautiful or something ugly. Food can be beautiful to look at, but nasty to taste, or visa versa.

Me, I'm a walking food allergy. I'm allergic to anything that comes from an animal and fruit (of all things). Needless to say, I'm pretty much vegan. In order to keep from starving to death or boring myself with the same thing all the time, I get creative and create 'art' (or science experiments, if you prefer honest accuracy). More often than not, I'll hit upon a real winner of a recipe I just can't kill, destroy, or mess up. This recipe is one of those. The original recipe comes from 'Secrets Of A Jewish Baker, Authentic Jewish Rye and Other Breads' by George Greenstein, copyright 1993. I was in the mood for something different for breakfast, so out came the muffin recipe, appropriately renamed by me as, 'You Can't Kill 'Em Muffins'. No matter what I've done to this poor recipe, the muffins are fantastic! If you're brave enough, give it a try. The original recipe is typed out with what I did to it this time or at sometime, in parenthesis.
Peach Muffins with Streusel Topping (the original name of this recipe)

1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour this time, but have mixed wheat and white or plain wheat flours before)

1/4 cup granulated sugar (I used brown sugar this time, it also works with Splenda and nutrasweet substitutes)

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar (also works with all white sugar and sugar substitutes)

1 1/2 tablespoons skim milk powder (I use powdered soy milk)

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt (not necessary, I use salt if the mood strikes me and I can reach it- which isn't often)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (use another spice if you wish like orange peel for cranberry orange muffins, or don't use at all)

1/2 cup shortening, butter, or margarine, at room temperature (I normally use the Earth Balance vegan margarine, but was out today and just used vegetable oil instead)

1 egg, beaten (the Ener-G Egg replacer works great in this recipe and is what I used)

1/2 cup water (try fruit juice instead, which is what I do when I make these for hubby)

1 1/4 cup coarsely diced peaches (fresh or canned) (you can use whatever fruit you wish and add 1/2 cup chopped nuts in, too. I haven't found a single fruit that didn't work with these muffins (hubby likes them with fruit). If you opt not to use fruit, like me, add an extra 1/2 cup of water instead. I've also used 1/4 cup honey plus 1 teaspoon vanilla instead of the fruit before, too.

Butter or shortening for greasing muffin tin (highly recommended to use those paper cupcake cups as sometimes these muffins come out moist, but crumbly and will disintegrate when removed from the muffin tin without the paper cups)

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugars, milk powder, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon ( ignore the salt if you're not using it and replace the cinnamon with whatever your spice of choice is, or ignore it, too). Cut or rub in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the egg and water (or fruit juice) and mix only until absorbed. Fold in the peaches (skip if you're not using fruit, or add the nuts here, or raisins, or dried cranberries or whatever you're using) . Drop our into greased or buttered muffin tins, making each cup about two thirds full. Spread with streusel topping (I often omit this, but used 1/4 brown sugar mixed with 1/4 cup honey as a topping this morning--see streusel recipe below). Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven until browned and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. For normal standard sized muffins bake for 15 to 20 minutes. I use jumbo muffin tin, which makes 6 muffins and they take 30 minutes. Cool for about 10 minutes before flipping out onto a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way.

Streusel Topping
2/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, cut up
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (I just use more vegan margarine instead)
In a medium bowl mix or rub together, do not cream, all the ingredients until the mixture resembles peas sized or larger granules. If the streusel appears to be too moist, rub in several teaspoons flour. Sprinkle on top of the batter and bake as directed in recipe.

Hope these muffins make your tummy as happy as mine.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Eye Of The Beholder

I love fabric. I love the colors, the patterns and the texture of it. Each color, pattern and texture has an emotion all it's own.

I just got this fabric from Down Shadow Lane on Etsy and boy to I love it! It's vibrant, expressive, happy and most of all it matches my wheelchairs frame. Hubby, on the other hand, rolls his eyes and leaves the room. He was happier with the basic black cushion covers the chair came with. Hubby can go sit on an ice cube! The cushion covers stay!!

There are other things in life that are in the 'Eye Of The Beholder', too. How do you look at yourself, for instance. This is something all of us are faced with. How do you 'Beholder' yourself? Are you happy with who you are despite the flaws you precieve to be there? I've been faced with just that question since I was little, as we all have. I've had to face that question even more up close and personal recently. I had yet another weird mamogram on December 26, 2007. I'd already decided back on November 26, 2005 when lump number 12 was removed that it would be the last one because if another one showed up I'd just opt for the mastectomy. I'm done with this piece of me here and piece of me there approach to treatment, prevention, and healing.

Thus far I'm still cancer free, so far as lumps and tumors are concerned. My 12 lumps were knotted tissue, not fibroids or cancer, just odd, weird knotted tissue. This last mamogram, however, has brought me closer to cancer than I've ever been and the time has come to have the 'unnecessary parts' removed, both of them. How do I see this, percieve this, feel about this, and see me, too? Well, I've heard so many stories of how a woman should feel without her breasts. I've heard how traumatic it is and such. But, in the eyes of this beholder, it's just no big deal. I've been both hugely big and am now small. I went from a B cup to a DDD cup (yes, triple D) in the course of just under 2 months back in 1991. I was packing watermelons and it wasn't fun. Well, ok, I'll do a bit of confessing here....I trained as an automechanic and I've loved cars since I was little. I always bought recycled junk heaps, fixed them and drove them till they needed more work. I'd then trade them in on another junk heap and repeat the process. It was cheaper than car payments and more fun, too. Well, with 'watermelons' in my shirt, I was able to talk several car sales men who couldn't take their eyes off 'the girls' down $1000 off the price of the car because they weren't paying attention to anything but my shirt. In that sense, being that big was a good thing with how tight my budget was back then. Beyond that, being that big is really over rated and then some!

I don't see the loss of my breasts as a big deal. I don't see the scars as a big deal either (I'm covered in them from the car accident and the previous surgery to remove the first 11 lumps). I don't see, nor do I understand, why breasts are such a big deal. It's in the Eye of the Beholder. My talents and skills and personality and who I am are not in my bra, but in my heart, soul and mind. How will others see me totally flat chested? I don't know and don't really care, either. Those who could see "me", didn't see me as any different when I could walk as they see me now in my wheelchair. It's not me people should feel sorry for, but they should feel sorry for those who can't see past the visible to the heart and soul of the person deformed, according to societies standards, by life.

It is all like fabric. Our textures, our patterns, and how we look will strike emotions and feelings in those who 'Beholder' us. Lets keep those eye open so that when something is set before us, we can see deeper than it's surface and into it's heart and soul.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Tis 2008, now what?

Well, it's 2008. Ok, now what? Make a list of resolutions. Why? Do you really keep them, or do you forget you made them? Me, I don't do resolutions. I believe that if I do the best of my ability to do what's right everyday, my life will take the right path, the path it was ment to take. What if I hit a pot hole in the middle of the road? Does it mean I took the wrong path? Should I have made resolutions? Would those have gotten me down a road without a pot hole? Well, I actually like the 'occasional' pot hole in my life. I would never go looking for them. Actually, I never have to as they always seems to find me with such effortless ease. It's those pot holes we all fall into that make us the people we are. The pot holes teach us lessons we'd never learn any other way, they teach us patience and tollerance, something we can never know too much about. Pot holes give us new perspectives on the things that surround us, or will soon be part of our surroundings and everyday lives. Pot holes get us out of the rut our life wagons have created from passing the same way one too many times. By getting out of those ruts, we can see and appreciate a whole new view. That's often more of a good thing than a bad thing. You never know what you'll see or who you'll see in that new view. You never know that within that new view if there is someone who needs your life experience to get through a pot hole in their life. See, we're all here on earth for a reason. Won't get into religeon as there is no point. All religeons have pretty much the same basics, the same tree trunk, the differences come in the form of knot holes, branches, leaves and species of said tree. Enough said there. Back to why we're on earth...we each have different talents, different gifts and different ways of seeing life. It's that difference that enables one of us to see how to get through a particular situation another finds hopeless. By relying on one another and working together while over looking our differences, we see we're not only really a lot more alike that previously thought, but by helping one another we gain a new skill, a new friendship, a new talent, and a new perspective.
So, back to 'It's 2008, Now What?'. For 2008, use those resolutions you've already forgotten about and those you're about to forget about and recycle that paper you wrote them on. Then, put on your bathing cap, swim goggles, flippers, and floaties (occasionally in life one needs floaties to keep from drowning in one of those pot holes--take my word for that one!), and get out there and just live life by keeping others that enter your little corner of the world in focus. If they've entered to teach you, listen. If they've entered to help you, let them help. If they've entered to just be your friend, open your heart and mind and add them you and they will be a better human for it.
Oh, one more thing...... always stop to cuddle your dog, your cat, your bird. Hug your family. And, always let those in your life know they're loved. That's the point of each new year, a chance to do what you should have been doing all a long, caring for yourself by caring for others (no matter who or what they are).